The government has been urged to go further in its plans to tighten up the system for barring people from working with children.
Although education secretary Ruth Kelly last week announced that anyone cautioned or convicted for sex offences against children would be automatically barred from working in schools, charities warned there were still loopholes.
The NSPCC and 4Children warned that Criminal Records Bureau checks were not mandatory for people who run clubs or child care away from school sites for children older than eight or for those working in holiday play schemes that run for fewer than six days a year.
4Children chief executive Anne Longfield said the gap in care for over-eights was a “particularly important issue” in light of the government’s plans for extended activities around schools.
Kelly, who had been under huge pressure after revelations about sex offenders working in schools, also announced that the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill, which has been developed since recommendations in the Bichard Inquiry, would be introduced next month.
This will set up a new centralised vetting scheme bringing together List 99, the record of people barred from working in schools, and the Protection of Children Act list, which covers people considered unsuitable to work with children.
Kelly also said ministers would no longer make decisions on barring people from working with children. This responsibility will transfer to independent experts.
In the period before the legislation takes effect, a new panel of police, child protection workers and medical workers, chaired by the former head of Barnardo’s, Sir Roger Singleton, will give expert advice on every barring decision.
Criminal Records Bureau checks for all newly appointed school employees will become mandatory. Teaching agencies will also have to ensure that teachers on their books have undergone checks.
The NSPCC has raised concerns, though, over the effectiveness of checks on teachers from outside the UK. Chief executive Mary Marsh said:
“We want assurances that this issue will be addressed quickly to prevent child sex offenders from outside the UK from gaining access to children.”
Kelly’s report key points There are 10 cases where ministers have not banned people on the sex offenders register from working with children.